NASA Sets Sights on Lunar Dust Exploration Mission

Apr 10, 2008

NASA is preparing to send a small spacecraft to the moon in 2011 to assess the lunar atmosphere and the nature of dust lofted above the surface.

Called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), the mission will launch before the agency's moon exploration activities accelerate during the next decade. LADEE will gather detailed information about conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these influences will help researchers understand how future exploration may shape the lunar environment and how the environment may affect future explorers.

"LADEE represents a low-cost approach to science missions, enabling faster science return and more frequent missions," said Ames Director S. Pete Worden. "These measurements will provide scientific insight into the lunar environment, and give our explorers a clearer understanding of what they'll be up against as they set up the first outpost and begin the process of settling the solar system."

LADEE is a cooperative effort with NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The total cost of the spacecraft is expected to be approximately $80 million.

Ames will manage the mission, build the spacecraft and perform mission operations. Goddard will perform environmental testing and launch vehicle integration. The mission will be established within Marshall's newly created Lunar Science Program Office. Marshall will draw upon experience gained from managing a larger suite of low-cost, small satellite missions through NASA's Discovery and New Frontiers Program.

LADEE will fly to the moon as a secondary payload on the Discovery mission called Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which is designed to take ultra-precise gravity field measurements of the moon. Current plans call for the GRAIL and LADEE spacecraft to launch together on a Delta II rocket and separate after they are on a lunar trajectory. LADEE will take approximately four months to travel to the moon, then undergo a month-long checkout phase and begin 100 days of science operations.

LADEE is one of many activities to support lunar exploration planned by NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Last year, NASA also established a lunar science institute at Ames. Research teams will address current topics in basic lunar science and possible astronomical, solar and Earth science investigations that could be performed from the moon. In addition, NASA is preparing for scientific investigations following the planned launch later this year of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). After a 30-year hiatus, LRO represents NASA's first step toward returning humans to the moon.

Source: NASA

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fun cryptography app pleases students and teachers

6 hours ago

Up on Google Play this week is Cryptoy...something that you might want to check out if you or someone you know wishes entry into the world of cryptography via an educational and fun app. You learn more about ciphers and keys; you ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

15 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

22 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

Dec 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.